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Hystaspes (1)

Hystaspes (OP. Vištâspa): name of several noble Persians and Bactrians. One of them is mentioned in the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, the Persian religion that was founded by the legendary prophet Zarathustra

Vištâspa, the son of Aurvat-aspa, was the king of a country that has been identified with Chorasmia and Aria. According to Avestan history, Vištâspa offered asylum to Zarathustra when the latter was hunted down by his opponents. Later, the king organized a debate between the two parties; when Zarathustra had proved that his doctrines were superior, Vištâspa became an adherent of the new religion. Legend has elaborated this story and added an intervention by Ahuramazda in person (text).

One of the Yashts, Avestan hymns to lower deities, is said to have been written by Vištâspa, but this is almost certainly untrue. In the first centuries CE, a book of Oracles of Hystaspes was very popular in the Roman Empire; it was probably written by a Magian who used Avestan texts and elements from the Persian folk lore, and describes the end of the world.

Vištâspa is not to be confused with Hystaspes, the father of the Persian king Darius I the Great.

This page was created in 1997; last modified on 29 January 2015.